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Observation of prophecy is to watch for the fulfilment of the prophecy and to have the faith to believe for its fulfilment, which requires patient endurance on the part of the saints.  For the prophecies of God have a habit of tarrying and often seem to take their time being fulfilled.

That is why the Lord said through Habakkuk, “Write down the revelation and make it plain on tablets so that a herald may run with it.  For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false.  Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.”[1]

However, the tarrying is not a delay as we think delay, but rather, it is a timing of God when all things are perfect.  And Habakkuk’s response to God’s prophecy was:  I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones, and my legs trembled.  Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity to come on the nation invading us.  Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.[2]

The prophecy given to Habakkuk by the Lord was not a good news prophecy, but rather like for us, it was a prophecy in two parts.  First there would be days of distress[3] with God raising up the ruthless Babylonians and then the good news with the woes first to the Babylonians and all who are like them, and then the promise of deliverance for the righteous, “But the righteous will live by his faith.”[4]  In the midst of all this distress, Babylonians threatening and Babylonians being threatened, there is an eye in the storm for the righteous —they will live by their faith.  And so Habakkuk determined himself to observe the prophecy and prepared himself with his prayer, and it is not a prayer of positive confession, but rather a prayer of determination that in spite of everything that is wrong and will go wrong, not what has gone wrong, he wrote that he would still wait patiently, and yet I will rejoice in the Lord.

However, application of prophecy demands that we do more than what Habakkuk did, and not only that, Jesus deserves that we do more than Habakkuk.  He is the Foundation, as Paul wrote, that the church is built on,[5] the foundation of the prophets and apostles, with Jesus as the Living Rock.[6]  But now we are preparing the ground, no, the building, to receive not the Cornerstone who is Jesus Christ, but rather, the Capstone who is Jesus Christ.

It pays to look at an example of failure of application of prophecy before we look at the success story of application of prophecy.  Hezekiah was told by God through Isaiah that he would die from his illness,[7] and Hezekiah pleaded for fifteen more years and was granted the fifteen more years.  Not only that, God also promised that Hezekiah would be delivered from the hand of the king of Assyria.  These were prophecies that came to pass in his life, prophecies that gave him healing and relief in his time – health and peace.

And when all was well, Hezekiah welcomed the Babylonians and showed them the treasury, a most foolish thing to do, even in the natural sense.  You are only inviting evil men to attack and rob you if you show off your wealth unwisely.  So God gave him this prophecy:  “The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon.  Nothing will be left.  And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood, that will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”[8]

Now look at his foolish reply, and not only foolish, but selfish, which is the worst of it:  “The word of the Lord you have spoken is good.”  For he thought, “Will there not be peace and security in my lifetime?”[9]  And he spent his final years preparing for his own death while enjoying his life, rather than preparing for the defences of Jerusalem against the Babylonians.  Note in 2 Chronicles 32:31 it is written:  But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart. 

The sign was the reversal of time, when the sun’s shadow went backwards ten steps on the stairway of Ahaz.[10]  The fact that Babylonian envoys came to enquire meant that they also experienced the sun going backwards.  (Meaning by what we now know, the Earth not only stopped rotating, but reversed its rotation, a sign greater than Joshua’s when the sun stood still, for then, the Earth merely stopped rotating.)  Do you now wonder what the Babylonians witnessed apart from the shadow’s moving backwards, and why they sent envoys to Jerusalem?  Why not elsewhere?  What happened in Jerusalem that was different that the Babylonians thought it was Jerusalem that caused the sign to occur?  Don’t you wonder?

If Hezekiah applied himself to the prophecy and not merely observed it, believing that it would come to pass and rejoicing that it would be well for him but didn’t worry about the children, he would have spent his remaining years to continue to reform Jerusalem and prepare her defences.  He might even have considered a pre-emptive war against the Babylonians before they got too strong.  He did none of that, but just rejoiced that he would be okay.

Likewise, those who have heard the prophetic message and warnings in the recent decades of these days of distress with increasing earthquakes, wars, disasters and the appearance of the mark of the beast, and have bought the theory that God would rapture the church before those days, are just like Hezekiah.  Their attitude is exactly the same.  “We have heard the word of the Lord and it is good —days of distress and disasters are coming, but it will not affect us because we will be raptured before then.”  Just like Hezekiah —the Babylonians wouldn’t affect him because he’d be long gone.  Those who have bought the rapturist’s theories of a miraculous removing of the church before the days of distress are just like Hezekiah, selfish.  Hezekiah could have applied the prophecy, and although he probably could not prevent it, at least it could have been written and said of him wherever the fall of Jerusalem is mentioned that Hezekiah spent his extra fifteen years turning Jerusalem and Judah back to God and strengthening the army against the Babylonians.  It could have been said of Hezekiah that he raised a mighty army, even allying himself with Assyria and Egypt to attack the Babylonians, even though it was to no avail, but the Babylonians still came in the times of his sons and grandchildren and sacked Jerusalem.

You see, you may not be able to alter the outcome of a prophecy, but how you apply that prophecy to your life is even more important.

The person, the role model for all disciples as a successful applicator of prophecy, is Mary, sister of Martha.  She listened to Jesus as we all know, and believed Him, never losing her faith, even when her brother was dead, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”[11]  When she saw Jesus raise Lazarus, something happened in Mary, something so profound, that we hear nothing about it, except we see her at Bethany anointing Jesus, and Jesus replying to the disciples accusing her of wastage with these words, “Leave her alone.  It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of My burial.”[12] 

As she listened to Jesus teach, she must have heard Him speak of His soon coming suffering and death, as well as resurrection.  In believing the words of Jesus to be truth and prophetic, she applied His words to herself and did what she could to play her part in the fulfilment of that prophecy.  Unlike Peter, she did not oppose it —she did not beg Jesus not to go to Jerusalem, and rather than say that it would be inevitable, unstoppable, unchangeable, she did what she could beforehand.  She acted prophetically in response to the prophecy, and she anointed Jesus in preparation of His death.  Her success in the application of prophecy earned her these words from Jesus:  “I tell you the truth, wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”[13]  A reward far greater than any disciple has ever been privileged with, for her action is forever a part of the eternal Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Thus, application of prophecy is action —not faith or teaching or watching.  It is preparation and action, just like Mary.  “She [saved] this perfume for the day… (The preparation) She poured perfume on My body beforehand to prepare for My burial.” (The action)[14]  Now compare her with Hezekiah, who witnessed as great a sign as Mary, the Earth stopped and moved backwards for him, and yet he took no preparation and no action, but only thought it was good because there would be peace in his days.

You see, other disciples heard what Mary heard.  Peter heard Jesus telling them about His fate in Jerusalem.  But Peter opposed the Lord, saying, “This shall never happen to You!”[15] and received from Jesus this reply, “Get behind Me, Satan!”[16]  In the same way, the church at large has heard Jesus is coming back; that He has to come back to reign, yet they live as if this shall never happen, certainly not in their lifetime.  If they believe that Jesus is coming back, most Christians do not prepare for it, and are not prepared to put into action what they believe is about to happen as Mary did.  They are too busy preparing for their retirement and funeral so that they will be welcomed into Heaven.  Others, like Judas, can only see the need of themselves and the world, just like Judas, saying, “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?  It was worth a year’s wages.”[17]  Like Judas, they appear to care for the poor, but really they are only concerned for themselves, doing charitable works with other people’s money so that they would store up treasures in Heaven for themselves.

And finally, there is the group that believes Jesus is coming back, and so they want to leave first and come back with Him, so that they would not have to do the hard work of preparing the Master’s house for Him.  You see, to buy the theory that the Lord would deliver us before these great and terrible days so that we would all come back with Him is like being workers who want to go away on holidays first and then come back with the boss to share in the profits.  If the workers go on holiday, there will be no profits to share.  Unbelieving and perverse, wicked and selfish!

Look again at Mary, ignoring the remarks of men like Judas and the other disciples; she does what she had prepared for, without a word from herself to plead her case to the Lord so that her distress might be relieved.  There is no pleading with the Lord for Him to change His mind so that she would find relief from her feelings.  Neither does she let her feelings distract her from her action —there is no reply to Judas and there is no request to the Lord.  She just did what she had prepared herself to do; applied herself to the prophetic words of Jesus and prepared His body for burial.

Likewise now, the opportunity to apply ourselves to prophecy is here.  Application of prophecy at its highest lever is to anticipate what God would need.  Observation and practice of prophecy is to believe and practise what we have heard, and prepare ourselves for the fulfilment of that prophecy.  However, what Mary did was to anticipate as well what Jesus needed, so that whereas most people are anointed after they are dead, Jesus was anointed before He died!

So what must we learn?  First, we must learn to listen and believe, then learn not to oppose the words of Jesus as Peter did, learn also not to be like Judas, putting on an appearance when all the while, plotting to steal something from God.  Finally, don’t be like Hezekiah, foolish and selfish.

Learn to be at least like Habakkuk, and then prepare yourself for action like Mary.  Don’t just wait for the prophecy to be fulfilled, do something because the prophecy will be fulfilled.  Mary could have waited until Jesus was dead before she anointed His body for burial.  That would have been the logical thing to do, as Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus did.[18]  That would have been the logical and sensible thing to do —wait for the prophecy to come to pass, then react.  Mary did not wait for the prophecy to come to pass; she acted in preparation of the prophecy.  She anointed Jesus before He died to prepare His body for burial.

Likewise now, your study and your practice are to help you to apply the testimony of Jesus, all His words, teachings, commands and decrees, prophetically and legally, as in application of the Law and the Prophets that is Jesus.

From our sister Mary, we have the example of what to do correctly, and may I say the reward that awaits all who succeed:  To have what you have done made mentioned of wherever His Gospel is preached and lived.  The martyrs have this eternal glory, wherever the Gospel of Jesus is lived from here to New Jerusalem, that what they have done will be made mention of, and not just mentioned, put on display, for they will be seated on thrones themselves to reign with Christ for the Millennium and beyond.

Others who do not make it into the Millennium will be like Judas and the other disciples, mere spectators and observers, and will take their place not in the procession, but in the stands with the other observers and spectators.  They will be forever watching (seeing) and hearing, but never understand or perceiving.  They will hear it and see it, but never live it.

I do not know by what grace of God that you and I are so privileged to come to this place and time to live on the cusp of the Lord Jesus’ arrival in fulfilment of prophecy, that Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man, and to some, Son of Mary, would return.  But the fact is, we are.  So the question is:  What are you going to do about it?  Nothing?  Or something; or really something worthwhile?  That is up to you.  Just as Joshua said to Israel, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord,”[19] so I hope you will determine in your heart just like Mary, and prepare yourself for action.

It does not matter what the rest of the church does.  It does not matter what the world does.  It matters what you do.  It did not matter what the army of Israel did, but it mattered that Eleazar son of Dodai the Ahohite… stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword.[20]  For through him, God was able to give Israel a great victory.

Do not look to the left or the right, ignore what the twelve are saying, forget about your own needs and distress, it is time to prepare the Lord for His burial.  Do it before He is dead.  That was Mary.

So, likewise, do not look at the world or the church.  Ignore what they are selling, forget your own fears and distress, it is time to prepare the Lord’s body for His coronation before He arrives.  If that is your attitude, then you have made sure your election.  Now, encourage those who are of the same heart and spirit.  As it is written:  Next to [Eleazar] was Shammah son of Agee the Hararite.  When the Philistines banded together at a place where there was a field full of lentils, Israel’s troops fled from them.  But Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field.  He defended it and struck the Philistines down, and the Lord brought about a great victory.[21]

So what do we know just like Mary and Hezekiah?  We know the words of Jesus are the truth and we can do what He has been doing.  We know days of distress are coming, not just of wars, earthquakes and famines, but of great deception and confusion, when prophets will be calling down fire from Heaven in the sight of men, shutting up the skies so that it will not rain, turning the waters to blood and striking the Earth with plagues.  We know the armies of the world will gather at Armageddon to resist the Lord, and we know the Mount of Olives holds the key to the fulfilment of His return.  It must be there for Him to place His feet on.

So what do we do?  We listen, we practise and we learn to apply and be innovative in the application of the words of Jesus we have practised and listened to.  Learn to anticipate God’s needs —and you have mastered the application of prophecy.

So we raise up a generation of Eleazar’s and Shammah’s, men and women who can stand alone in Christ, a generation of Mary’s, sister of Martha, who listens, prepares and acts.  People who will not run away at the sight of the enemy, but will take their stand as people who know their God, and who resist those who are against God and His Son, Christ Jesus.  Prepare your sweet perfume of words of life with miraculous power that multiplies the food, changes water to good wine, heals the sick, and pour it out on the body of Christ and prepare it for coronation, elect of the Holy Spirit.

[1] Habakkuk 2:2-3

[2] Habakkuk 3:16-18

[3] Habakkuk 1:5-11

[4] Habakkuk 2:4

[5] 1 Corinthians 3:11

[6] Ephesians 2:20

[7] 2 Kings 20:1

[8] 2 Kings 20:16-18

[9] 2 Kings 20:19

[10] 2 Kings 20:11

[11] John 11:32

[12] John 12:7

[13] Mark 14:9

[14] John 12:7; Mark 14:8

[15] Matthew 16:22

[16] Matthew 16:23

[17] John 12:5

[18] John 19:38-40

[19] Joshua 24:15

[20] 2 Samuel 23:9-10

[21] 2 Samuel 23:11-12


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